USGS Updates Mineral Database with Tantalum Deposits in the United States
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has updated its USMIN Mineral Deposit Database for the mineral commodity tantalum, one of 35 mineral commodities considered critical to the economic and national security of the United States. The two deposits in this dataset occur in Alaska and Texas.
“Tantalum is an essential component to much of the electronics industry, which the United States relies on,” said Jeff Mauk, USGS lead scientist for USMIN. “Because we rely on it so much, it’s very important that we know as much about the significant deposits we have in the United States as possible.”
Tantalum is highly conductive to heat and electricity, and resistant to acidic corrosion, so it is an ideal component for electronic capacitors, telecommunications, data storage, and implantable medical devices.
This data release comprises sites that contain more than 1,000 metric tons of tantalum metal, which was the approximate consumption of tantalum in the United States in 2019, according to the 2020 USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries.
The largest tantalum deposit in the U.S. is the Round Top deposit in Texas, which contains reported resources of 480 million metric tons. There are no current U.S. producers of tantalum.
“The USGS has been updating USMIN for all of the mineral commodities declared critical to the U.S. economy by the U.S. Department of the Interior. For instance, we recently updated the database for niobium, an important mineral for high-strength steel alloys used in the transportation and pipeline industries,” said Mauk. “We will also soon be releasing updates on gallium, an essential mineral for circuits and LED lights.”
In 2019, the U.S. relied on foreign sources for 100% for the tantalum it used. Primary import sources were Rwanda, Brazil, and Australia, listed in descending order of quantity supplied to the U.S. The largest tantalum deposits on Earth occur in Australia, where the Greenbushes and Wodgina Mines have been producing Ta from pegmatites since the late 1880s.
USMIN is a national-scale geospatial database that is the authoritative source for the most important mines, mineral deposits and mineral districts of the U.S.